As we come to the end of the most challenging year in our living memory, there is however great hope and opportunity to look forward to in 2021. Marketing and media is central to business growth but how to find good marketing services is not always easy
The world has forever changed with entire sectors and individual businesses having either grown, collapsed, barely survived or significantly evolved. And it will be even more competitive in 2021 as new entrants emerge in the gig economy and in response to innumerable variants to meet additional and increasing business demands.
A plethora of choices
Marketing is the backbone business success and market capitalisation. The essential nature of marketing services gives rise to a plethora of good, average, bad, dodgy and brilliant operators to wade through.
Small businesses cannot afford to make mistakes as the wrong choices can result in appreciable wastage of money and time. Reputational damage is also a risk as are shattered hopes and goals. Conversely, top operators will deliver great outcomes as assured, operate ethically and have their client’s success front and centre.
But it can be difficult to identify the gold from the tin as seductive hyperbole and seeming popularity can be misjudged for genuine social proof and quality.
Trusting the wrong people
Before I dive into marketing services, it’s important to understand why so many have unwittingly fallen prey to dodgy or ineffective services.
Firstly, it’s about a demand and an itch needing scratching. High market demand engenders a deluge of services all trying to grab a slice of that itch relief revenue.
Secondly the populist rhetoric that we deal with people we ‘know, like and trust’ is fundamentally flawed. Psychology shows we like to trust people that mirror us and if we like someone (their personality) we want to trust them (their character).
Cathy Caprino, international author and executive coach shares in Forbes the core reasons why we place trust in the wrong people:
- We desperately want to believe them even though we know what they’re offering is too good to be true.
- They validate what we need to believe about ourselves
- They appear as if they’re “winners” – they’re charismatic, persuasive and impressive (narcissists and manipulators)
- They make us feel as if somebody finally recognises our talents
- We hand over our power and skip the due diligence we need to do, to ensure this is a good move
Being mindful of the above is key to risk minimisation. Being desperate for results is never a satisfactory reason to ignore point 5.
Visibility ~ Impact ~ Influence
The objective of marketing is to raise visibility, make an impact and influence the target market. Outcomes mostly are measured by client acquisition and profitable business growth. Pretty simple, but not so in reality as there are many moving parts to effective marketing with time and financial resources often a challenge.
LinkedIn, personal branding, SEO, websites, public relations, content and copywriting are essential pillars for every business in varying degrees.
Let’s look at each of these pillars with tips to guide informed decisions. I will kick off from my specialisms of LinkedIn and personal branding followed by three other expert contributors.
With 722 Million global and over 11M+ Australian LinkedIn members, any business not taking advantage of the platforms marketing opportunities is leaving money on the table. And LinkedIn profiles are an essential asset being indexed on the first page of Google.
A good operator will:
- Have at least three years platform and training experience
- Focus on a quality vs quantity strategy
- Employ a tailored creative marketing approach to every client
- Embrace research and best practice
- Write original and educational content
- Have strong technical knowledge
Avoid those who:
- Disregard the LinkedIn User Agreement.
- Use prohibited automation and connection tools
- Sells and uses paid and unpaid engagement pods and buys engagement
- Outsources overseas and integrates plagiarised content systems
- Purely focuses on lead generation with promises of metric outcomes
The mere mention of this has many running for the hills. I get it, as it appears that every Tom, Dick and Mary has jumped on the bandwagon. But the tenets of personal branding are fundamental to differentiate value, strengthen and drive all other marketing activities. In the age of social media saturation it’s not the what, but the how as ‘your vibe attracts our tribe’.
Look for services that:
- Walk their talk with an inspiring unique profile, solid portfolio and digital footprint
- Have a communications, media or marketing background
- Share examples of client transformations and communications
- Understand the connection of personal and business brand positioning
- Have integrated marketing offerings to leverage visibility
Be wary if they:
- Encourage exaggeration and bluster
- Have limited experience with diverse professions and industries
- Have MLM type processes and lock in systems
Websites & SEO
I asked website and SEO specialist Doreen Brown to contribute her tips. Both services should ideally be in tandem as a website without SEO is like being at a party without any guests – what’s the point as no one will see you dance!
Look for SEO services that:
- Are user-intent focused. Behind every Google search is a user seeking answers to SEO connects to your ideal customer or audience by understanding user intent and matching your content.
- Commit to ethical and evidence-based strategies. SEO is a long-term game not an overnight proposition. Services must focus on a strategy that includes building online presence over time.
- Anyone that promises page 1 or position 1 on Google. No one can make those guarantees as Google ultimately has the final say. This is also the reason why users will get different results based on their location, personalisation and algorithm variations.
- Providers selling SEO packages based on the number of keywords ranked. If an agency or consultant sells packages based on ranking for certain number of keywords on the first page of Google, head for the hills. This is an old school, out of date tactic.
Tips for website services
- Your brand is not just your logo. Ensure the web designer can demonstrate a clear insight of your business to integrate your brand and messaging throughout the site and navigation streams.
- Don’t be swayed by purely aesthetics. It’s not enough to have a designer create a pretty looking website without infrastructure that enables search engines and users to find you.
- If you are replacing an existing website, ensure the designer understands the technical connection of SEO and online visibility. If they don’t, you could lose all existing Google visibility for quite some time.
- Know who is actually working on your project. The vast majority of providers outsource overseas which can create significant issues.
- Beware of services that lock you into a website build (due to custom coding) that mean you have to request every single change. You need to be able to self-manage minor changes and updates after the website is launched and not be held hostage.
Jo Stone from the acclaimed (without the fluff) agency Sticks & Stones PR believes that public relations is multifaceted and not just about media exposure. I couldn’t agree more and as Jo and I have discussed, effective PR campaigns cross national TV, glossy magazines, radio interviews, content and social posts. Below is a few of Jo’s behind the scene tips:
Finding a good practitioner:
- Ask around and check out the market and word on the street. And if you spot a business or thought leader with a lot of great media coverage find out who is doing their PR.
- Look for journalist led services. Practitioners who are former working journalists bring enormous depth, knowledge and invaluable industry contacts.
Before you engage:
- Be very clear on what success means for you and how you will measure it.
- Evaluate your needs as often only a small part of the PR journey is required. Big agencies are essential to execute integrated mainstream campaigns that need many hands and diverse skills. But often a specialist solo operator is the solution for part of your PR needs.
- Work out who is the best spokesperson (it may not be the owner or CEO). And then get media training as it is an essential part of the PR process to deliver with confidence.
- Are you really ready? Do you have an excellent website and customer experience processes to cope with exposure? Can you upscale services or manufacturing supply if necessary?
- Be realistic as the current media climate turns on a dime. A story which may have hit front page in mainstream media a year ago may be pushed to page 10. Is your story and business one that really has media potential, no matter how clever the spin?
Content is designed to engage, inform and inspire. With the explosion of social media, websites and online rankings, content that influences and converts is essential. Sophia Auld of Words Mean Business shares tips on how to choose the right copywriter
What to look for and red flags to avoid
- A copywriter that can explain their services simply in a way that you understand. If they cannot do that, what hope do you hold in them being able to communicate your story in your voice?
- Have an idea of what you can afford as writers rates vary widely based on experience and diverse skills. Do you want an average or highly skilled craftsperson as you can’t buy Moet on a Passion Pop budget.
- Niche or general expertise. Do you need a great all-rounder (they can easily adapt to most projects) or a very skilled writer with a specific professional background?
- Ask for examples of work. But those examples don’t need to be an exact match but ask for similarities of skills.
- Personality fit and flexibility is key to ensuring you will enjoy working together. An initial phone or zoom conversation is essential. Be aware many writers are introverts and would sooner gouge their eyes out than talk about themselves. Some love a good chat and their information gathering style and communication preferences must align with yours.
- If a writer takes several days to respond or doesn’t communicate agreed time frames it’s a big red flag.
- Check testimonials. Many clients won’t publicly admit they use ghost-writers and copywriters so ask for of some of those along with ones of the writer’s website.
There are many other important services which support business objectives as the marketing wheel has many spokes (i.e. design, video, research, advertising, digital retargeting). Getting the above in order is absolutely foundational and intertwines with the whole wheel.
Making wise marketing choices requires courage, self-awareness and an unbiased analytical perspective.
May your 2021 be filled with brave decisions, growth and fulfilment.
This article was also published in Kochie’s Business Builders